Ann Arbor — With two freshmen in the starting lineup and another three in the regular rotation, Michigan has one of the youngest lineups in the country.
While the Wolverines are going through their growing pains, coach John Beilein is starting to see some dividends, as the first-year players are starting to mature on the court and make their marks.
But Beilein wasn't taking kindly to moral victories after UM's 69-64 overtime loss to No. 6 Wisconsin on Saturday night at Crisler Center.
"None of us should be happy. The pats on the back about 'Good game' I absolutely hate after a loss — and I want them to have that mentality," he said. "At the same time, when we go over some of the things we need to fix, we'll also be showing what's been fixed and what is making us better. We still have to be tougher in a lot of areas and that's just natural when you have a team like this."
Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman has become a revelation, getting significant minutes for the fourth straight game, with 23 against the Badgers.
"(With) his speed and his quickness, he can rebound from the guard position a little better. We work every day 20 minutes on the different passing drills I want him to learn to do," Beilein said. "I like the strides he's making right now. You'll probably see him more in the future."
With Spike Albrecht still showing signs of his upper-respiratory infection, Abdur-Rahkman could be a candidate to get more significant minutes — or potentially to start.
"It could be. He's playing really well; that's three games in a row that he's had very positive plays in our games. That's a good sign," Beilein said. "I don't think Spike has rebounded yet from his sickness; he certainly wasn't himself today. He probably needs even more time."
Abdur-Rahkman tied his season high with nine points.
For UM's only senior, Max Bielfeldt, the freshmen are starting to show some mettle.
"With all the bench guys who are playing more, it's so optimistic to see that. Freshmen, 18 years old going under the big lights, playing a top-10 team and having their tail between their legs but they're stepping up and playing so hard," he said. "You have to commend them for it."
Michigan was a 10-point underdog against Wisconsin, but it didn't show on the stat sheet, as the Wolverines had a 33-30 advantage in rebounds — with an 11-9 edge in offensive boards — and caused eight turnovers.
But the Badgers had the advantage where it mattered and took the fourth win in the last six meetings.
With an experienced team that has a national player of the year candidate in Kaminsky, Wisconsin looks to be the Big Ten favorite and a contender for a return to the Final Four.
"I'm not trading them," Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan said, "but that's why we've worked with them from the time they've come into the program and tried to get them to this point."
While the Wolverines are working through their inconsistencies with an inexperienced squad, the Badgers boast two seasoned seniors in Kaminsky and Josh Gasser and a solid junior in Sam Dekker, who remained composed despite the late comeback in regulation.
Michigan football coach Jim Harbaugh brought a group of recruits to the game, including four-star quarterback Zach Gentry and three-star defensive end Reuben Jones.
Jones announced via Twitter that he was committing to Michigan and Gentry, who had been committed to Texas, is believed to be flipping to UM.
"Excited about the future! #GoBlue!" Gentry posted to his Twitter account.
It was Harbaugh's third basketball game this season — and the first one the Wolverines have lost.